And Gutenberg Lived Here: “On The Socially Influenced Evolution Of The Rehearsal Comedy- And Other Noises Off.” LOL.

Yes, I know the title sounds like  Groucho Marx ,

dressed in tails and mortar board,

lecturing on the state of the union.



All I really mean

is the fact that:

Way back when,

like 1671


like George Villiers, second Duke of Buckingham,

registered a play he wished to be published.

A rehearsal play.

Mocking the poet Laureate of England.

And his pompous-set-speeches Siege-of-Rhodes type

heroic drama.

It was apparently a joint effort by a group of writers

who felt someone just plain talked too much.

And too pompously.

And was keeping them from selling their product.

(And could it have been that they were perhaps

just a teense jealous of his fame?)

Unfortunately for them, though,

although they trolled Dryden,

at a time when it could only be done by the educated,

his detractors neither really changed the form,

heroic is heroic,

nor did they make the heroic non-heroic.

And, to put it in a nutshell,

did they ever get really famous for their own names.

Oh times, oh mores.

But still,

the heroic battle

between the serious and high-minded lit of the day

and the satire writing detractors,

already based on a tradition set by the madly popular,

and, in my humble opinion,

infinitely better written,

(you can’t get better than Shakespeare)

ca 1595 Midsummer Night’s Dream,

showed up the basis of the whole thing:


or trolling

against a social structure-


or at least ok.

Trolling against a single person-

Not so good.

ie illegal.

Which brings us to the more modern forms:

in nineteen fifty-two,


Philip King,

wrote a play,

On Monday Next,

decrying the sad lives, and trials, off off off west-end  actors,

appearing, unfortunately,

in a too too bad thriller-

“tarnished gold”

The play was renamed

“Curtain up,”


at a time when the Angry Young Men,

like Osbourne,

were writing for the boards that change the world,

discussed what you have to do to get a play on in this town.

With Robert Morley,

And Margaret Rutherford.

It was a smash hit.

As was his “See How They Run”

Is Curtains still being heard today?


Is Dryden?


(Today what he wrote is nearly a foreign language)

Are his detractors?


Now on with the story.


A few years later,

A Chorus of Disapproval appeared on the scene.

Ayckbourn at  his very best,

in my humble opinion.

(Hey, he’s number three in the English language,

after the Bible

and Shakespeare)

And Chorus is a special favorite of mine,

since he writes brilliantly about working with amateur singers

and amateur actors,

short budgets,

bad costuming,

over-blown amateur egos.

Been there, done that.

Be still my heart.

(What I haven’t done, thank heavens, is affairs with the cast-

far too messy when they decide they want to sing lead-

and even worse when you’re married to your solo lead baritone…

Not that I would ever think that way.)

So anyway,

first Shakespeare-

(Shakespeare in love? Falstaff, Queen Liz I, Titania, the dark Lady…?)

And then there is Michael Frayne’s famous

Noises Off.

Brilliant dichotomy of the business actors get up to-

on stage and off.

From the standpoint of a more than just a bit sexually active producer.

And a giant cactus, fire axe,

and pratfalls so good they hurt to watch.

They showed the version with John Ritter and Carol Burnett over here on New Years Day,

and I can’t remember the last time I laughed this hard.

(I also saw it in German, believe it or not, with an actor so good he stole the show-

and also almost surpassed John Ritter,

which, in my opinion, really takes some doing.)


at the moment,

at least in the London scene,

the prizes are being won by a crew called  Mischief Theatre-


and Olivier winners,


The Play That Goes Wrong


Peter Pan Goes  Wrong.

A sort of “Curtains Up” of the post Monty  Python generation.

Who work hard, and,


present a very heroic view of the actors and technical crew

struggling to survive,

and bring their very best to the stage,

including a message,

in a world that expects splashy modern computer effects,

and continuous physical comedy,

to balance the lack of physical action

in a tense, computer driven world.

Or, as a concert visitor said to me recently,

“this is the largest crowd we have ever seen for an a capella performance….

Now if you only had a house band,

and a fog machine…”

copyright Dunnasead.Co 2017

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